Before you get to know this incredible writer, I wanted you to know that Sonali is giving away a copy of A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR, her RITA finalist book for BEST FIRST BOOK.
MEET SONALI DEV
Award winning author, Sonali Dev, writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after.
Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post and Kirkus Best Books lists. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance in 2014, is a RITA Finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find out more at www.sonalidev.com.
Nan: What an impressive list of awards for a fabulous writer!
Let's talk about A CHANGE OF HEART which releases September 27, 2016.
Two years after the tragedy, Nic is a cruise ship doctor who spends his days treating seasickness and sunburn and his nights in a boozy haze. On one of those blurry evenings on deck, Nic meets a woman who makes a startling claim: she received Jen’s heart in a transplant and has a message for him. Nic wants to discount Jess Koirala’s story as absurd, but there’s something about her reckless desperation that resonates despite his doubts.
Jess has spent years working her way out of a nightmarish life in Calcutta and into a respectable Bollywood dance troupe. Now she faces losing the one thing that matters—her young son, Joy. She needs to uncover the secrets Jen risked everything for; but the unforeseen bond that results between her and Nic is both a lifeline and a perilous complication.
Delving beyond the surface of modern Indian-American life, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s page-turning novel is both riveting and emotionally rewarding—an extraordinary story of human connection, bravery, and hope.
READ A LITTLE, BUY THE BOOK
Nikhil’s head felt like someone had squeezed it through a liquidizer. Whiskey burn stung his brain as if he had snorted the stuff instead of pouring it down his gullet. He leaned into the polished brass railing, letting the wind pummel his face. The ship, all twenty-four floors of behemoth decadence, was like the damn Burj Al Arab speeding across the Caribbean. And yet the only way to know they were moving was to watch the waves. His fingers released the glass sitting on the railing and it flew into the night, disappearing long before it hit the inky water.
He imagined hopping on the railing, imagined being that glass. Boom! And it would be over. Finally, there’d be peace.
The sky was starting to ignite at the edges, as though the glass of Jack he’d just tossed into the night had splattered amber flecks across the horizon. It would go up in flames soon. All of it orange and gold when the sun broke through the rim of the ocean. It was time for him to leave. The last thing he needed was the mockery of another breaking dawn.
“Sir, why don’t you stay and watch today?” A man leaned on his mop, staring at Nikhil from under his windblown hair, that tentative, guilty look firmly in place. The look people couldn’t seem to keep off their faces when they talked to Nikhil—the one that announced, rather loudly, that they were terrified of intruding. Because The Pathetic Dr. Joshi with the giant hole in his heart might break down right before their eyes.
“Very beautiful it is, no?” The man pointed his chin at the burgeoning sunrise that had just pumped Nikhil’s lungs full of pain and waited for a response. But while the blazing pain in Nikhil’s heart was functioning at full capacity, the booze incapacitated his tongue. He wanted to react, wanted to have a conversation with the man who was obviously starved for it. He searched for words to say, but he came up empty.
Now there was a word: empty.
Still empty after two years.
The deck hand’s smiling mouth drooped into a frown. He turned away and started working the spotless floor with his mop. Shit, had he just thought of the man as a deckhand? Jen would have clonked him upside the head for it. Jen would’ve—
“What’s your name?” Conversation was better than the high definition telecast of memories that kicked off in his brain.
“Gavin.” The man looked surprised. “From Goa. In India.”
Great. Goa. Jen’s favorite place in the whole world.
The steady boat pitched beneath Nikhil’s feet. His stomach lurched. The world summersaulted around him. He leaned over the brass railing and tried not to throw up his guts.
He failed. When the heaving stopped, the world was still spinning too fast. He lifted his T-shirt and wiped the foul-smelling puke off his mouth. Gavin from Goa was walking across the deck with a bottle of water in his hand.
Nikhil should have thanked him, should’ve told him he was fine. Instead he turned toward the stairs. In the light of day he could talk to people, pretend to be alive, but now when the world was as dark as his insides, he couldn’t. The stairs dived into the lower deck. He grabbed the railing and stumbled down, landing on his ass on the last step.
The smell of chlorine from the three-tiered pool cut past the smell of regurgitated Jack on his shirt, setting off the churning in his stomach again. He pulled himself up and dragged himself to the elevator, rubbing his face on his shoulder like the snotty, cranky brat he used to be. But no tears came to dilute the unrelenting burn of wanting.
How could it be that he was still here? The sunset, the sunrise, it was all still here when she was gone.
He wanted her back. God. Please. Give her back to me.
“Look what you’ve done to yourself, Spikey.”
His head snapped up. He didn’t remember stepping out of the elevator, but he spun around now, his breath loud in the absolute silence. The brightly lit corridor swirled around him. The bloodred carpet, the gold-striped walls, every inch of garish splendor echoed that word.
There wasn’t a soul in sight.
He followed the echoing word across the hallway and around the corner, his racing heart dragging the rest of his body along. He turned the corner, expecting to see nothing. Expecting to chase the sound the way he’d been chasing his dead wife’s memories for two years.
A shadow clad in black stood all the way across the corridor. A wisp of dark against the overpowering gold of the walls. Bright red strands cascaded around her face and into her jaw in a razor-sharp edge. Hair he knew better than he knew his own name.
He reached out and leaned into the wall, but the ship continued to seesaw beneath him. She held steady for a moment and then she was gone, melting around the corner.
He sprang after her, running until he was standing in the spot she’d been in. Another long corridor stretched out in front of him. It showed no signs of life, only an endless line of doors connected by endless golden molding, and the endless buzz of the lights overhead.
The walls closed in around him, forcing him to stumble forward. His breath ricocheted against the heavily textured wallpaper.
And then there she was again, a flash of red hair peeking around the corner. He ran at it, at her. But his drunken legs tripped over themselves and he splattered flat on his face, arms and legs splayed like a dead arthropod someone had swatted into the floor.
When he lifted his head she was gone.
His face fell back on the rough, deep pile of the carpet with its polythene smell, and everything went black. Everything except the panacean sound of that name.
Only one person called him that.
Jen, his wife. And she’d been dead for two years.
Nan: Oh wow! As usual you expose so deep emotions in your work!
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A LIGHTING ROUND OF Q&A WITH SONALI DEV
NAN: How often do you get lost in a story?
SONALI: My family would tell you I’m lost in a story all the time. Usually multiple stories at any given time because I’m always writing— if not actively then in my head. My stories live inside my head for a few years before I actually write them down. And then of course I’m also often lost in someone else’s story. Because there’s never a time when I’m not reading.
Nan: Oh yeah!
SONALI: I was eight and it was a play about mistaken identities. For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in India and we used to have a huge celebration in our neighborhood for Diwali, which is a really big Indian holiday. My motley group of friends performed the play on the huge makeshift stage built in our central playground. The plot went something like this: a servant in this home is named after an Indian god and everyone in the family calls out to him so much (the poor harried man) that the god actually comes down from his heavenly perch. Much slapstick humor ensues with food fights, someone’s sari falling of and what not.
Nan: Any video of this amazing debut?
NAN: Do you write while listening to music? If so what kind?
SONALI: When I’m actually writing— that is putting words down on paper I need a fair amount of silence. Music, conversations, they can go on around me, but I’m not listening. However, while I’m writing but not putting words down— as in, living inside the book in my head while pretending to be involved in my outside-the-book life — I have certain songs that I listen to all the time. And by all the time I mean my family throws headphones at me because they get so sick of listening to these songs twenty times a day. So, yes my books have sound tracks and they’re usually songs from Bollywood movies. Usually, hyper romantic ballads that somehow fit my stories perfectly.
NAN: What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would love to pass on or did pass on to your children?
SONALI: I grew up in a family that centered around food. When our extended family gathered for holidays or events, one meal time was spent discussing what the next meal was going to be. Celebrating any milestone meant going out to eat or cooking something special. I think we’ve definitely passed that on to our children. They are foodies in every sense of the word. The other thing that I grew up with that I passed on was travel. Sometimes I think our family vacations define our lives.
Nan: I love the pictures of food that you post on Facebook!
NAN: What three things are, at this moment, in your heroine’s purse, satchel, reticule, weapons belt or amulet bag (whatever she carries)?
SONALI: Jess is a mom above all else, so always a little neosporin and bandaids and a little snack. She also has a certain something in her bag that she’s using to trap Nic. But if I told you more, my life might be in danger.
Nan: Oooh, intriguing!
NAN: Benedict Cumberbatch or Chris Pine?
SONALI: Oh most definitely Chris Pine. And it’s not just those blue eyes. Who can resist that combination of cockiness and intensity? Like he could totally infuriate you and really get all your deepest darkest issues in one fell swoop. As for Benedict Cumberbatch, I’d love to have a beer with him, you know. And probably go watch a Broadway show or two with him. I think he’s adorable and brilliant, but he doesn’t do anything to heat me up.
NAN GOTTA ASK: Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?
SONALI'S GOTTA ANSWER: I’m a chai girl. Every morning I boil a big pot of ginger tea and drink it all day with milk. With biscuits (that’s what we call cookies/crackers in India) dunked in it. Sadly, though my children, even my dog, have taken to dunking biscuits in my chai and this means an awful gunky mess at the bottom of my cup. I have to sometimes hide my chai cup to prevent dunkage.
UP NEXT FOR SONALI
The next one isn’t out until next year but my award winning debut A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR was reissued on August 1 and is available with this lovely new cover.
Nan: It is beautiful!
Nan: Thank you, Sonali for spending the day with the crew!
SONALI WANTS TO KNOW: What was the last book you read that was completely outside of your comfort zone? How did you like it?
Sonali is giving away a copy of her RITA finalist book--A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR.